Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day Eleven: Free Day - Yad Vashem

Our light rail train is arriving!
Today was a free day. After the three previous long days, we were ready for a break. I decided to take the morning and see the Yad Vashem (Holocaust) Museum. Eight of us students met up in the morning and grabbed the light rail to Mount Hazel. From here, it was a short walk to the museum. Once again, no pictures were allowed inside the museum, so I only got a few from the outside. Our group was going to meet up at the end. We were told it would take about two hours to go through. I took my time making my way through the exhibits and watching the firsthand accounts of many Jews who survived the Holocaust. About halfway through, I looked at my phone to discover it was already noon! I had already been at the museum for two and a half hours - already missing our scheduled meet up. Oh well, I could make it back to campus on my own … but I did need to pick up the pace to make it out of the museum park by 2:00. The only way I can figure that someone could make it through in two hours is if they don't stop two watch any of the videos or testimonies and only graze the main headlines. I ended up staying at the museum park for three and a half hours and did not see everything! … The museum really was "good" if you can call it such. It is so hard to believe the brutality of the human nature. I cannot even comprehend the massacre of men, women, and children. The museum moved in progression of time. Starting with discrimination, to ghetto, to firing squads and concentration camps, and finally to the battles end. What struck me first was the apathy on behalf of the church and actually the church's anti-Semitism across the centuries. No wonder the Jewish people have negative connotations of Christianity!

This is essentially the only picture I got inside the
museum as "pictures were not allowed." This is in the
Hall of Remembrance. The volumes surround the
outlook contain the names of those who perished
in the Holocaust.
Imagine with me for a moment. You and those like you are being persecuted – nothing particularly new. It is getting a bit worse, but in all likely hood this too will pass. After all, your family has been in this country for several generations. You have made a lively hood for yourself. However, before you know it, things are getting quite bad. Do you leave or wait it out? Say you are one that decides to leave. Where will you go? Perhaps a neighboring country? Will they even let you in? If you were on the St. Louis to America, you were not allowed to enter without a visa. Say you are one of the fortunate to make it to a "safe" neighboring country to reestablish your life. You may deposit most of your remaining money in the bank, but before long Germany invades and you find yourself forced to live in the ghetto. You go back to the bank to withdraw your investment only to find that Germany has possessed all of your belongings or cash. Anything you own belongs to the state. You are stuck – where can you go? What can you do? The ghetto is overcrowded and starving. An offer is given for you to go to another region: one that may be safer where you may at least use the skills of your profession to buy food. Once on the train you realize this is not going to the destination you had anticipated. Rather it is going to a concentration camp. Here the elderly and children may be put in a smoke filled room to suffocate. Perhaps the women were taken out, stripped to the nude and shot that they fall in an open grave. You may be given the job to remove the bodies from the gas chamber and bring them to the "dentist" to have their gold teeth pulled before tossing them into a pit to be later removed by a backhoe and buried or burned. Although I have heard and read about these horrors and atrocities many time before, it was the individual stories that grabbed me. The eye witnesses of the survivors, the six-year-old child witnessing her mother's gruesome death. The thirteen-year-old boy whose job it is to remove the corpses. … While in the concentration camp, you may find it difficult to even find others that speak the same language as you. You are alone and slowly starving to the point of death.  These atrocities were not just in Germany but almost all of Europe and even North Africa and the borders of Russia. I found it interesting to have just visited the Ukrainian World War II memorial. Everyone was a "victim" in the war. From the Ukrainian perspective, they were being fired at from both sides left to starve. From the Jewish perspective, there were many Ukrainians themselves who conducted some of the most gruesome mass murders. … Regardless of family, military honors, artistry, philosophy, scientific discoveries; if you were Jewish you were worthless. Doctors, musicians, rabbis, inventors – all reduced to beggars. Estimates are that 60 million died WWII, a tenth of whom were Jewish. Although the allies won the war, everyone lost.

On the way back I had a half hour delay on the light rail – from the bits and pieces that I could gather, there was an accident along the railway, and they were waiting for the police to clear off the road. After arriving back at the college, I decided to take the remainder of the day to study for my exam in the morning. … An exam on Saturday? Yes, the schedule for this three week intensive will use any day of the week for classes and field trips. 

Riding the Light Rail to Yad Vashem

Walking to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum)


Yep, I was there :) .... and that's all the pictures for today (Friday)

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